Ivorian football legend-in-the-making, Kolo Touré, is known for much more than being the older brother of Yaya Touré, three-time African Player of the Year. The central defender is currently lending his talents to Liverpool in the Premier League, as well as to the Côte d’Ivoire national team. He made his name playing for Manchester City and Arsenal. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Ivorian footballer Kolo Touré.
1 As a child, he sold newspapers and cleaned shoes to earn money for his family
Touré’s family wasn’t wealthy when he was growing up, and he sold newspapers on the side of the road and cleaned people’s shoes to help his family. Family continues to play an important role in his life, and he has not stopped taking care of them – he sends money home on a regular basis. “As an African, you need to take care of a lot of people,” he said. “Our family, our whole village, is really proud of what me and my brother have achieved in football. People who have known me since before I became a footballer know I deserve what I have because I’ve worked so hard in my life.”
2 He continues to play while fasting during the month of Ramadan
A devout Muslim, Touré often prays in locker rooms and before practice and games. During Ramadan, he continues to follow his faith and fasts throughout the day, despite the fact that it is mid season. In a 2011 interview, Touré said, “It doesn’t affect me physically. It makes me stronger. You can do it when you believe so strongly in something.”
3 He was the first Ivorian to ever sign with Arsenal
On Feb. 14, 2002, Touré became the first Ivorian player ever to sign with Arsenal. The fee was £150,000 ($238,544). The signing came after Touré accidentally tackled Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in a training trial, and Wenger decided to offer the Ivorian a contract. Touré also became Arsenals’ longest-serving player, playing with the Gunners from 2002 to 2009, before signing with Manchester City.
4 Touré left Arsenal after a reputed bust-up with his defensive partner, William Gallas
Following a blazing row between the two defenders in December 2008, Touré handed in a transfer request to leave Arsenal. He believed Gallas had been mouthing off to manager Arsene Wenger about how the two couldn’t play together, and that Wenger was listening to him. The transfer request was initially denied, and Touré stayed with Arsenal until summer 2009.
5 Touré and wife, Chimene Akkassou, wed after nine years together and two children
Touré and Chimene Akkassou tied the knot in June 2012 after being together for nine years and having two children, Sania and Yiassin. The ceremony, which took place at a mosque in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, was star studded with plenty of Touré’s high-profile footballer teammates, friends, and family.
6 He was suspended in 2011 after failing a drug test
After struggling with his weight for some time, in 2011 Touré started taking water tablets — the same ones his wife was taking to lose weight. He had cleared the pills at a clinic, as well as with a doctor at Manchester City and was told they were OK, but none of the health professionals allegedly looked closely enough at the medicine to be sure. The pills contained banned ingredients that showed up in a routine drug test, and Touré received a six-month ban from playing.
7 Touré was eager to leave Manchester City for Liverpool due to ongoing disagreements with his manager, Robert Mancini
Touré never had a positive relationship with Manchester City manager, Robert Mancini, demonstrated by the fact that Mancini took away the captain’s armband from Touré at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season to give it to Carlos Tevez. In an interview, Touré said it was difficult to work with Mancini, and that he disagreed with many of Mancini’s roster decisions. “I wouldn’t have minded being on the bench if I thought the players in front of me were better,” he said, “but I didn’t. He brought in Stefan Savic and Matija Nastasic and I was left behind. It was so difficult.”
8 He initially rejected call-ups from the Côte d’Ivoire national team in 2013
In early 2013, Côte d’Ivoire’s Les Élélphants tried to call up Touré to play in several World Cup qualifiers. However, Touré felt that he was not ready, and needed more regular game time with his club first. He had recently made the move to Liverpool from Manchester City, where he wasn’t getting a lot of playing time. In an interview, he said, “When I was not playing they were talking but I knew what I was doing, I knew my qualities. I had to work, play and then go and help my national team. I hope my national team will go to the World Cup, which will be very important.”
9 Touré made the 2014 World Cup squad despite having malaria
After a trip home to visit family, Touré contracted malaria in 2014, prior to the World Cup. Despite this, he made the roster for Brazil, as the medical team knew what had to be done to get him fit for the tournament.
10 His youngest brother, Ibrahim, died during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
Ibrahim Touré, the youngest brother of the Touré football trio, died at age 28 following a battle with cancer. Kolo and Yaya were in Brazil representing the Côte d’Ivoire national team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and learned of his death just hours after falling to Colombia 2-1 in the group stages of the tournament.
•Sources: ESPNFC.com, Football.co.uk, NigeriaFilms.com, StandardMedia.co.ke, DailyMail.co.uk, AfricaTopSports.com, FamousBirthdays.com, ArticleBio.com, LiverpoolFC.com, IrishTimes.com, BBC.com